Opportunity Attack 5e
Published on June 27, 2023, Last modified on June 28th, 2023
React swiftly and turn the tides of battle with opportunity attacks in D&D 5e!
Sara Winters - Wizards of the Coast - Wanderer’s Strike
Table of Contents
Understanding Opportunity Attacks
Opportunity attacks, also known as “attacks of opportunity,” occur when a hostile creature moves out of your reach without disengaging. As an experienced adventurer, capitalizing on these moments can turn the tide of battle in your favor. However, it is crucial to understand the rules surrounding opportunity attacks to maximize their potential.
First, let’s see what the Basic Rules have to say about opportunity attacks:
You can make an opportunity attack when a hostile creature that you can see moves out of your reach. To make the opportunity attack, you use your reaction to make one melee attack against the provoking creature. The attack occurs right before the creature leaves your reach.
You can avoid provoking an opportunity attack by taking the Disengage action. You also don’t provoke an opportunity attack when you teleport or when someone or something moves you without using your movement, action, or reaction. For example, you don’t provoke an opportunity attack if an explosion hurls you out of a foe’s reach or if gravity causes you to fall past an enemy.
Let’s break these aspects down to see what strategic opportunities lie within, shall we?
The first clause of the above text mentions that you have to be able to see the creature when it moves out of your reach. This means that heavily obscuring an area or turning invisible are great options to avoid opportunity attacks.
Usually, a creature’s reach is 5 feet. By only provoking opportunity attacks when you move out a creature’s reach, this actually puts creatures with a longer reach at a subtle disadvantage. If your reach is 10 feet, your enemies can move more freely within your reach, positioning themselves strategically without having to take opportunity attacks.
You get one reaction per turn, but you don’t have to use it on your turn. When something activates your reaction, you can use it regardless of who’s turn is ongoing in the initiative order. This means opportunity attacks can be used strategically to maximize “once a turn” abilities, like the rogue’s Sneak Attack. However, this does have a downside. Seeing as opportunity attacks only allow for one melee attack, any features that grant extra attacks cannot be activated.
This also poses a challenge to builds that have other important uses for their reaction. One such example is casters with access to counterspell or silvery barbs. Seeing as you can only make melee weapon attack as part of an opportunity attack (unless you have the War Caster feat), it is likely a better idea for caster classes to let an enemy retreat without attacking them, so they can potentially counter something later in the initiative.
We cover the ins and outs of the Disengage action and how it affects opportunity attacks in our Disengage 5e mechanic overview.
Teleportation and Forceful Movement
One of the best ways to get out of an enemy’s reach without provoking an opportunity attack is by teleporting, like with the misty step spell or the eladrin’s Fey Step feature. When it comes to forceful movement, getting blasted out of your space usually won’t be in your favor, even when an opportunity attack is the other option. That said, the strategic use of some abilities, like the thorn whip spell, can be used to pull allies out of danger.
Another strategic tip that can be found in this clause is creating opportunity attacks by forcing your opponents to move by using their reaction or movement. Examples of how to do this are the dissonant whispers, command, or fear spells.
One thing to note is that standing up from prone does not provoke opportunity attacks, as confirmed by Jeremy Crawford.
Maximizing Your Opportunity Attacks
Netting extra attacks, especially when enemies are putting themselves in a vulnerable position, is a substantial benefit to most martial classes. To make the most of opportunity attacks in 5e, consider the following strategies:
- Sentinel Feat: This powerful feat grants you the ability to make opportunity attacks against enemies, even if they Disengage. It also reduces their speed to zero if you hit, preventing them from escaping your reach.
- Polearm Master Feat: Equipping a reach weapon, such as a halberd or a glaive, extends your reach to 10 feet. The Polearm Master feat allows you to take opportunity attacks against enemies that move into your extended range, providing you with greater control over the battlefield.
- Sentinel + Polearm Master: The best builds for making use of opportunity attacks have both Sentinel and Polearm Master. Polearm Master allows you to attack anyone coming into your 10 feet reach, and Sentinel reduces their movement to 0 if you hit. This allows you to keep approaching enemies out of their melee range, so you take your attacks and back away on your turn without provoking an opportunity attack from them. Then, when they try to enter your reach again, rinse and repeat.
- War Caster Feat: This feat allows you to cast spells as opportunity attacks, giving you the option to let loose a booming blade, green-flame blade, shocking grasp or more powerful touch spell, like contagion.
- Mage Slayer Feat: This gives the ability to take opportunity attacks when a creature within 5 feet casts a spell, which can net you a huge amount of extra attacks in a campaign where you’re going up against a lot of spellcasters. It’s also a good way to prevent magic using-enemies from slipping away with misty step.
- Add Extra Damage: Class features that add extra damage to your strikes, like the rogue’s Sneak Attack, barbarian’s Rage, or paladin’s Divine Smite, are all good ways to increase the potency of your opportunity attacks. Rogues are the best example of this because their Sneak Attack usually nets huge damage and can only be used once per turn. By creating opportunities to attack while it’s not their turn, rogues can increase their damage exponentially.
Avoiding Opportunity Attacks
Whether you don’t want to get your shiny armor scratched or are on the brink of death, getting hit with an opportunity attack feels bad. Here are some ways to avoid giving enemies a free hit when you turn tail and run:
- Don’t Move: Easier said than done in most situations when you’re thinking about running. But, if you don’t leave your enemy’s reach, they won’t get an opportunity attack against you.
- Disengage: Wasting your action sucks, but if you need to get out of an enemy’s reach to heal up, taking the Disengage action is usually the best way to do so.
- Teleport: Again, easier said than done if you’re a martial who doesn’t have access to magic. Unfortunately for the non-magical adventurers in the world, magic is one of the best options for avoiding unwanted attacks.
- Mobile Feat: This feat essentially gives you a free Disengage against any creature that you make a melee attack on that turn. Keep in mind, you don’t even need to hit. Just attacking your foe is good enough!
- Reduce Sight: You need to be able to see a creature to take an opportunity attack against them. Turning invisible or using the fog cloud, darkness, or another area obscuring spell is a great way to accomplish this.
Don’t Miss Your Opportunity
Opportunity attacks in D&D 5e are an invaluable tool for seasoned adventurers who understand the mechanics and nuances surrounding them. By capitalizing on these moments, you can exert control over the battlefield and strike at your enemies when they least expect it. Whether you choose to optimize your character build with the Sentinel feat or employ clever tactics, the mastery of opportunity attacks will undoubtedly enhance your effectiveness in combat. Embrace the opportunity, and may your strikes be true!